Leonard Cohen: Hallelujah Meaning
Song Released: 1984
Covered By: Rufus Wainwright (2007), Jordan Smith (2015)
anonymous Mar 20th, 2015 3:22pm report
In the life of David, his worst almost unforgivable blunder was the taking of the woman bathing on the roof who is Bethsheeba. In order to call her his own he had to send her husband, Uriah, the Hitite, to the front lines where he was almost certain to die and he did get killed and David claimed her for his wife. The karma lives on with their son Solomon who achieves greatness in wisdom with the Lord but also falls to lust with many princesses from other nations for political reasons and Solomon ends up worshipping many gods of foreign lands and loses his one-pointed devotion to God. David enjoyed such a closeness with God also before his sin. LC goes through the human drama of love, ups and downs, the highs and the lows. It is such a painful song about putting too much faith in human love and when that fails you are left empty and alone. In spiritual love, there is no pain but an eternal blossoming. But being human, like David, we easily fall prey to the enticement. Human love can be very beautiful and fulfilling if you love without attachment. But that is quite difficult sometimes. We love one person and forget the creator of that Love which is the Lord. Earthly love needs balance or it most definitely will end in pain. If the Lord is first in your life, if following the truth in your heart is first, then you will develop wisdom and balance and that will extend into your love life. It will be long lasting. If you love another without seeing God in that person, that love is doomed because there is always a chance for conflict. If your human love is viewed as but one aspect of the whole of your life, there will be balance and success in all undertakings. your marriage will last into a Golden anniversary. Hallelujah. But LC is not saying all that. He is hanging on to the power and passion of a purely physical mental emotional bond that has now lost its magnetism and it is a song of loss for a shattered dream. But he also remembers the power that the love once had and that in essence "It is better to have lived and loved than to have never loved at all." As human beings we are also very attached to our dramas be they sad or happy. Sad dramas carry deep passion and we are very attached to our great sadness. It ensures us that we are human and the pain reinforces that fact over and over again. This never ending drama also ensures our rebirth in the Buddhist sense of reincarnation to keep on experiencing our passions time and time again until we finally decide that the pain is either too much or too boring and then we make the final decision to disengage from the world and journey inward for true satisfaction...Hallelujah
anonymous Mar 27th, 2010 3:45pm report
The first time I heard this song it touched me. Both the melody and the words are really powerful. This is my interpretation.
The logic of the song is there can be many different hallelujah's. Hallelujah can be said in many different circumstances.
Lennard Cohen uses this theme to talk about the hardships of love.
There are many biblical references in the song (King David, Samson and Delilah). I will not go in to them, other have already explained these references in great detail.
There are many versions of this song. Even LC did not always sing the same verses.
I believe the version he performed during his 2008 tour (maybe still does) is the most logical (complete):
Now I've heard there was a secret chord
That David played, and it pleased the Lord
But you don't really care for music, do you?
It goes like this
The fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, the major lift
The baffled king composing Hallelujah
David loves music, but his love does not. He does not understand this (is baffled) and tries to explain (the cords are matched by the actual song), thus composing the Hallelujah.
I believe this is about unmatched intrests in a relationship.
Your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you
She tied you
To a kitchen chair
She broke your throne, and she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah
The man (David) falls in love, but the relation is not a healty one. It ends up with him submitting and losing his powers. It is a distructive relationship and the Hallelujah is one of dispair.
Maybe there's a God above
But all I've ever learned from love
Was how to shoot somebody who outdrew ya
And it's not a cry that you hear at night
It's not somebody who's seen the light
It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah
Maybe the most "black" verse, reflecting on the bitterness of love. When you hear a Hallelujah it's probably not because of joy (seeing the light), but because someone is hurting.
Baby I have been here before
I know this room, I've walked this floor
I used to live alone before I knew you.
I've seen your flag on the marble arch
Love is not a victory march
It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah
The relationship still exists, but it's hollow. It is like it was when he was alone. He has seen the glorious side of love (the flag on the marble arch), but the love is not lasting and his hart is broken, therefore the Hallelujah is cold and broken.
There was a time you let me know
What's really going on below
But now you never show it to me, do you?
And remember when I moved in you
The holy dove was moving too
And every breath we drew was Hallelujah
He remembers when things were good, how their lovemaking made him feel like they were really together, and their Hallelujahs were those of joy and ecstasy.
I did my best, it wasn't much
I couldn't feel, so I tried to touch
I've told the truth, I didn't come to fool you
And even though
It all went wrong
I'll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah
The conclusion of the song: Here LC turns from looking back to looking forward.
We try, but often fail in love. We start with the best intentions and though it can go wrong, we need to try. In the end it is worth it. This Hallelujah is optimistic, because it shows that the hardships have not defeated him.
This last verse is not included in most covers, but for me the last verse makes the song complete. It takes it full circle, bringing back the biblical relationship between the subject and a (the) Lord. It also gives the song a hyperbolic ending, which I prefer.
Most of the interpretations I have heard refer to biblical stories and of course it is impossible to ignore the analogies with King David and Bathsheba. However,I think these can obscure the meaning of the song and I would rather go beyond them. Analyzing a poem line by line sometimes misses the core of meaning which may actually be not fully realized by the poet himself.What after all was Kubla Khan, Coleridges poem about? It came out of a drug-induced reverie and the words are impossible to interpret literally.
What I see in the poem is a man who finds it hard to reconcile his own singular personal quest for truth as a spiritual seeker and as a creative artist with earthly love.He is "overthrown" by the beauty of the woman bathing on the roof and intoxicated with desire for her yet with that comes compromise.Being tied to a kitchen chair suggests being bound to domesticity and having his hair cut recalls Samson whose strength was lost when Delilah cut his hair.He feels he has sacrificed his power for ephemeral sexual desire,emotional needs and freedom from the burden of loneliness.
And inevitably the hallelujah, the ecstasy fades and withit bitterness and disillusionment since his lover has no feeling for creativity as evidenced by her lack of interest in music,his explanation of which seems to fall on deaf ears.
At the same time,the sexual magnetism, "down below" has diminished or even gone in the way that the energy of many relationships weaken into dead habit.
So there is a sense he has been left with nothing, doubting a god above and likening earthly love to a gunfight.It is as if he has betrayed his deepest yearnings and is only left with a cold and broken hallelujah, an empty exhortation, a state of inner desolation.
Yet the tone of the song is so bittersweet, so beautiful and sad that there might be a suggestion that he has reconciled those feelings and accepted the limits of the relationship,knowing that even sharing a life with someone cannot assuage his inner loneliness.
Hallelujah is a beautiful,ironic and melancholy masterpiece.
anonymous Aug 7th, 8:22am report
Write more, thats all I have to say. Literally, it seems as though you relied on the video to make your point. You clearly know what youre talking about, why throw away your intelligence on just posting videos to your weblog when you could be giving us something enlightening to read? dcgdeedefffddgdb
anonymous Aug 6th, 8:51am report
Very efficiently written post. It will be valuable to anyone who usess it, as well as myself. Keep doing what you are doing i will definitely read more posts. dbdeedfdkafecedd
anonymous Jul 15th, 7:10pm report
I always thought Cohen was a dirty old man, but in a cooler-than-you kind of way.
So Hallelujah to me just seemed obviously sexual. lallelujah is the female orgasm, and how powerful and elusive it is.
Most of the song seems like a biblical analogy of oral sex on a woman.
I'm sorry if that offends those of you who consider it a hymn to be sung in church, but you know... Cohen is that brilliant dirty old man
anonymous Jul 13th, 7:57pm report
It's Adam and Eve all over again. Again and again and again.
Drawn to material things (as opposed to spiritual) they prove to fail in fulfillment and we are left seeking higher power once again - often it takes being broken to bring us to place of seeking.
Not that love isn't spiritual... but reliance on things human proves both unlasting and unfulfilling and invariably ends in being let down.
anonymous Jul 13th, 7:05am report
I found this song moves me to great depths! But I couldn't understand the words.
Mr. Cohen was refreshingly clear..so I was interested in the history and input here.
I understand how an artist adds words to his ballad to feed the crouds..
Music is such that each person who experiences the song is touched emotionaly. And we each have our own depths of emotion. Our own experience. Our own interpretation.
As a woman I must alter words to get the meaning that is digging at my soul.
Also I sing an octive higher and with power. So this is my interpretation of this glorious work of soul cleansing art:
1: Now I've heard there was a secret cord
That David played and it Pleased The Lord..
(spoken) But you don't realy care for music. Do you?
(sung to my self..building to powerful crescendo) It goes like this: the fourth-the fifth. The minor fall and the major lift..
The baffled King compossing
HALLELUJAH!!! (victorious) (thankful) (joyouse)..
2: My faith was strong-but YOU needed proof.
(reflecting) you saw her bathing on the roof..Her beauty and the moonlight
(spoken. Wondering. Knowing an ah- ha moment.)overthrew you.
(sudden anger and bitterness) He tied me to the kitchen chair!
He broke my throne,and He cut my hair!
And from my lips He drew my Hallelujah! ( despairing, loss, pleading to God) hallelujah..
3. So maybe there's a God above,
But all I ever learned from love was how to shoot someone..who out drew you.
And its not a cry that you heard at night.
It's not somebody who's seen the light.
Its a cold and its a broken
(bitter realization. Conclusion on the fight within. But the discussion gose on
A discussion of faith and supositions.) 4: You say I "took the name in vain", I don't even know the name..Even though I did!
Well whats it to ya?
There's a blaze of light in Every Word!
It dosn't matter what you heard. The Holy or the broken Hallelujah. (repeat as determination and strength builds)
5: ..maybe I have been here before..
I know this room.
I've walked this floor.
I used to live alone before I knew you.
I've seen my flag on the marble arch!..But love is not a victory march!
It's a cold
And its a broken
(contemplating loss and broken trust)
6: I did my best, though it wasn't enouph.
I couldn't feel, so I tried to touch.
I told the Truth! I didn't come to fool you!
And even though it all went wrong
(determined in mind and heart) I'll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah!..(ends with deep gratitude, assurance, leaving wreckage behind and joyful dedication to, and love of God)
This song sais that the important thing in life is not our failures and imperfect state, niether slander nor abandonment, nor loss, but strength of spirit and greatful acceptance of the Love of God. For your song can "Please the Lord".
anonymous Jul 12th, 7:42pm report
Oh, Hallelujah, praise You, Lord!
Please help Mr. Cohen and others to know who You are and to worship You in Spirit and in truth.
Please draw them to You. LORD God, You are love. You are what our hearts long for and the meaning of our lives. Hallelujah!!!
anonymous Mar 27th, 3:27am report
Hallelujah reflects on the dichotomy between romantic and spiritual love
anonymous Mar 27th, 3:04am report
It is the hardships of true love.
anonymous Feb 1st, 2016 2:59pm report
The phrase Hallelujah literally means "Praise Jehovah". As an old testament phrase, this was a poetic form of singing praise to God. As a writer of many portions of the psalms, David used this expression. Jehovah is identified in the original texts as Gods name. It was removed and still is absent in many modern bibles apart from Psalms 83.
The verse in the song referring to an unknown name, and the 'taking the name in vain' refers the 'jah' in hallelujah.. God's name that few people know these days.
anonymous Jan 12th, 2016 1:49pm report
The bottom line of this song is that it demonstrates the universality of all human experience. More so, it asserts that whether we know how, or why, whether we succeed or fail, or even whether we BELIEVE it or not, God is glorified. It artistically paints picture after picture of the individual coming to the realization that we are all subjects to an enigmatic, fearsome, yet somehow compassionate, King.
anonymous Jan 1st, 2016 1:32pm report
Our observations are extremely limited bc we experience the "world" through our senses. The person who posted on Oct 15th at 10:54 wrote a small explanation that's actually worthy of pondering.
Some are here to shed light and not to master
This interpretation has been marked as poor. view anyway
anonymous Dec 23rd, 2015 12:24pm report
Hallelujah reflects on the dichotomy between romantic and spiritual love. While each verse describes the bittersweet heartache of a lost love affair, the chorus is just the repeated word "hallelujah", the essence of spiritual love. When "hallelujah" appears in a verse it refers to earthly joy that ebbs and flows and in this case finally turns cold and broken. In the chorus, "hallelujah" takes on a different meaning. With each successive utterance it moves from reflection to inspiration to conviction and finally, resignation. The chorus is compelling and satisfying because it tells us there is meaning in life and reason to celebrate, even in failed relationships. It is the spiritual distillation of romantic love that lingers in the heart.
I think it's crazy how much people project their own lives into songs. I suppose that is what music is supposed to do. :). Here is the way I see it:
The song is about a man (like Sampson and David) who has succumb to his desires and becomes completely enveloped by the love of a woman who ends up shattering both his heart and his belief in existence of God, brought about by the intense spiritual connection he once had with her. In the end, he is grateful for the experience. Hallelujah!
anonymous Dec 1st, 2015 12:04pm report
While acknowledging the efficacy of the biblical references, I choose a secular interpretation, in which a young man uses them as analogies to the bittersweet reflection of first passionate love to a woman who first awakens his passion. But she will not let that evanescent feeling bind her to him and eventually leaves him. He is at first left with the bitter anger of memories when their physical and spiritual love enthralled him, only to be cruelly abandoned. But now he can appreciate what she gave him, if only briefly, that will endure to other relationships. She will remain his instructor to the deeper meanings of feelings of the heart. And he can now remember her with gratitude for having started him on that heart-rending but necessary path through life.
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